Little is known about the relative influence of historic processes and environmental gradients on shaping the diversity of single-celled eukaryotes in marine benthos. By combining pyrosequencing of 18S ribosomal RNA genes with data on multiple environmental factors, we investigated the diversity of microeukaryotes in surficial sediments of three basins of the Yellow Sea Large Marine Ecosystem. A considerable proportion (about 20%) of reads was affiliated with known parasitoid protists. Dinophyta and Ciliophora appeared dominant in terms of relative proportion of reads and operational taxonomic unit (OTU) richness. Overall, OTU richness of benthic microeukaryotes decreased with increasing water depth and decreasing pH. While community composition was significantly different among basins, partial Mantel tests indicated a depth-decay pattern of community similarity, whereby water depth, rather than geographic distance or environment, shaped ?-diversity of benthic microeukaryotes (including both the abundant and the rare biosphere) on a regional scale. Similar hydrographic and mineralogical factors contributed to the biogeography of both the abundant and the rare OTUs. The trace metal vanadium had a significant effect on the biogeography of the rare biosphere. Our study sheds new light on the composition, diversity patterns and underlying mechanisms of single-celled eukaryote distribution in surficial sediments of coastal oceans.